THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 181

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 181

…“Listen to you! There IS a devious bone in that good-old-boy body…”

“Well it can’t be another Texan and it can’t be another space guy, so why not a rifle-toting, rock’em-sock’em reformer from America’s Dairyland.” Brain gears are churning away. “And we can sneak it in at the end of the Space Colony tribute.”

“Morbidly, you may be on to something, tying this whole deal in with the McKinneys, but, and I underline but, I don’t think it should distract from the solemnity of the memorial service.”

His wife is buying into the notion. That low, murky, gray cloud that has shadowed Roy the past four months {always a step behind like a political version of an undertaker} is starting to clear up, replaced by the blue-hue of tranquility.

With calm comes clarity, “We will wait until the scheduled news conference that afternoon. The emotional impact will be different from the memorial, I won’t even deviate from the respectful reminiscing I have been working on, but sliding the announcement in at the end will negate any negative reaction to Charlotte.”

“Listen to you! There IS a devious bone in that good-old-boy body,” Francine is impressed.

“The time is right for a female Vice-President and I believe you prefer my choice to that Georgia peach of a Congresswoman… the one whose husband just died of a brain tumor… and she has called me twice to express her interest?”

Francine is quite aware of Roy Crippen’s baser appeal. He is a tabloid rock star, a media darling, and the hottest thing presidential since JFK {after an extreme makeover and an injection of swagger}. But just like Kennedy he is more than a pretty face; men with a hypnotic power of persuasion and the adept skill to lead the nation down the road of turbulent uncertainty.

Another welcome asset in his corner is with his support team’s ability to keep a secret. In a society where security and info leaks are an art form, thanks to the instantaneous news cycle and continuously connected individuals throughout the world, in those somber days leading up to the posthumous honoring of Celeste and Sampson McKinney… not a single peep, hint or drip about candidate-elect Charlotte Walker.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 181


page 216

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 170

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 170

…Can an easygoing, confident, knowledgeable ex-astronaut be elected President of the United States of America…

Easy Going

While the McKinneys settle into their post-Martian mystery tour to somewhere out there….

…Roy Crippen, Presidential candidate Roy Crippen is riding through the streets of yet another city on his current campaign swing. Instead of a chauffeur driven limousine, the custom he had fallen into at first, he uses a laid-off NASA employee/driving a Ford Motor Co. prototype car; born in the USA, single father of three/made of titanium, fueled by hydrogen and genuine demographic hemoglobin. He is determined to break the mold of the atypical politician and his aim is to be as humble and transparent as he can.

(Elect Roy Crippen – Hydrogen powered for the Future)

With transparency comes scrutiny, undesired and blatantly untrue. When you run for national office, your entire family and all your friends are put under the microscope.

And that is the one thing that is burning the press’ be-hind: his blood relatives are few and squeaky clean and his friends are all related to the space program; from the Space Academy currently somewhere in space, conveniently unavailable for comment.

It has been an uphill battle trying to persuade wary voters in his direction. They want to know if Roy Crippen has what it takes to lead a World Power, though no longer the most dominant country in the world thanks to the diluting of education and the exodus of manufacturing. He intends to reverse those corrosive trends, but when the current party in power {Democrats} has a stranglehold on the low/middle/immigrant classes {and they love their lame-duck Pete Sanchez}, the uphill battle becomes insurmountable.

Can an easygoing, confident, knowledgeable ex-astronaut be elected President of the United States of America in this climate of delusional contentment?

It is up to his former Press Secretary, Francine Bouchette-Crippen to make lemonade out of lemons. It is one thing to be popular in your home state, Texas where lemonade is the state drink {with tequila chasers}, but quite another like in the state of Illinois, where welfare is king and the will to learn has been generationally discounted.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 170


page 206

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 169

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 169

…“Just how long will we be staying on Mars?”

“Until the experiments are done or we run out of excuses… and then we will discuss.”…

— “We’ve been eavesdropping Rick… where the hell is Sammy Mac?” If the situation weren’t so bothersome, it would make for a great episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. “Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions?”

“Their boys aren’t listening in are they?”

“No, thank God and we are going to control who knows what, when and you are taking care of the where.”

“Then I don’t think we can say anything for sure Roy – Braden. This is all way too strange and it is going to take some time to do a CSI Mars or wait for them to come back from wherever they are hiding. Tycho looks lived in but not lived-in enough, if you know what I mean?”

“I may be overstepping my bounds, but I am going to have you stay out there and conduct every single experiment or at the very least, pick up where they left off.”

“FYI……I see some early spectro-photographic soundings that show some huge lithium deposits, not to mention liquid water and crude bacteria deep in the subsoil.”

“See if you can unravel the missing person’s mystery first and worry about all the other goodies later.”

“Just how long will we be staying?”

“Until the experiments are done or we run out of excuses… and then we will discuss.”

“What do we do with Tycho when we leave, shut it down, blow it up, hang a For Rent sign on it?”

“None of the above; Just close the door and leave the lights on!”

“Now who would leave a perfectly good machine like Tycho behind on a distant planet?”

“Too bad we don’t have an automatic recall feature or a good hangar to store it.” Roy laments an unnecessarily un-lamentable set of circumstances. “I guess we will be have to be the first.”

{Maybe not Roy!}


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 169


page 204

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 162

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 162

…“It appears we are going for a ride, family!”

“Where are we going,” Celeste wonders?

“I’d like to know, who is driving?”…

“Sit down in that chair over there, strap yourself in and wrap this blanket around Sammy,” he hands it to her and secures his girls.

For his part, Sampson seizes what they believe is the command seat, though there is no crew to instruct or the slightest feeling of control. The king and queen of this mysterious realm are compelled to hang on for an unidentified unknown outcome.

The previously dormant main viewscreen snaps to, filled with a panoramic picture of the Martian landscape. Syrtis Major looms stoically in the background, with Tycho and AL wondering what is going on in the fore. At the peak perfect pitch of A, the NEWFOUNDLANDER pauses, as if to bid Mars farewell, the only home it has known for some 3000 years.

“It appears we are going for a ride family!”

“Where are we going,” Celeste wonders?

“I’d like to know, who is driving?” He tries get the feel for some sort of helm, but it seems to be fruitless. “Let’s hope that it hasn’t forgotten the way to Earth, if that’s too much to ask.”

Liftoff is smooth and with the exception of the anticipated g-forces, they were soon out of Mars’ loving embrace and headed… headed… unfortunately headed away from the sun, which at this point in planetary alignment, is in the opposite direction of Earth. After Sampson proves to himself that he has not figured out the secrets of navigation, he unbuckles himself and what to his wondering eyes does appear a solid boot footing and a stable atmosphere. Space Colony 1 had some measure of gravity, but not anything approaching this downward force.

His first official duty as commander of the NEWFOUNDLANDER is to check on Celeste, who is still in post-delivery recovery, and of course the baby. Both are partially conscious from the shock of the ship achieving what has to be multiples of the speed-of-light. There is no space-speed indicator, but the sun of this sun system is fading faster than the orb on an Alaskan winter’s night.

Martian Sky


 THE RETURN TRIP

Rocket Ferry Leaving Mars by Chesley Bonestell

Episode 162


page 198

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 161

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 161

…Systems on the NEWFOUNDLANDER that never made so much as a peep, poop or gurgle are adding their ovations to the emergent chorus…

Chorus by Jacob Rowan

The Space Family McKinney, Sampson, Celeste, and Sammy are strangely content with whatever fate befalls them, but not long after that adorable-Mars/moon-namesake joins the 4th planet party, the NEWFOUNDLANDER seems to be having other ideas. Several times in the recent past, Sampson noted sudden, uncharacteristic computing activity. It seems random and spontaneous, not as a result of anything they or he was doing, but it is incremental in its frequency.

“Here it goes again Sam! Are you sure you didn’t bump something over there?” Celeste is concerned about the electronica noises distracting Sammy from feeding time, courtesy of one of her two milk-filled nursing stations. It is the only dispensary aboard this ship that is certified Grade A.

“I keep telling you that nothing I am doing around this musical chatterhouse is causing any of this. I would not risk upsetting the status quo, although I really think I getting that steering thing nailed.”

During this current cycle of beeps, boops, bops, pops, and hums, the whole ship comes alive at once, in the familiar key of A. Systems that never made so much as a peep, poop or gurgle are adding their ovations to the emergent chorus. It is like the ghosts of its former crew were manning their stations, which was impossible.

When the unmistakable whine of the ship’s propulsion unit, that magical mystery miniature module in the bowels of the lower deck shakes the control bridge and the sheer awesome power is being harnessed and directed with purpose, Sampson acts instinctively.

“Sit down in that chair over there, strap yourself in and wrap this blanket around Sammy,” he hands it to her and secures his girls.

For his part, Sampson seizes what they believe is the command seat, though there is no crew to instruct or the slightest feeling of control.


  THE RETURN TRIP

No Control by Güneş Yılmaz

Episode 161


page 197

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 160

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 160

…Deimostra Samantha McKinney is born almost two weeks premature, paradoxically so on April 1st 2030…

…our space heroes are indeed alive, with an infant conceived on the way to – now a citizen baby of Mars. Deimostra Samantha McKinney was born almost two weeks premature, paradoxically so on April 1st 2030. Deimostra {Deimos} is certainly an uncommon name for such a cute blond-haired blue-eyed baby girl, so named for one of Mars’ reliable, if not fickle moons; Phoebe {Phobos} would have been too easy. As one would guess, her middle name is the feminine form of father Sam, an everyday tag she will carry as “Sammy”, the affectionate term she has already responded positively to.

If delivering a baby on another planet were not challenge enough, add in the aged-41 aspect, she-mom-herself-in-labor had to coach “Dad” through the entire birthing process; no small task when massive pain is dominating every two minutes or so and they are using medical facilities that does not accommodate childbirth (as earthlings would know it).

So as they had done with all the other strange devices and workings of the NEWFOUNDLER, they modify, improvise, and utilize. Considering that Sammy will spend much of her first six months in artificially enhanced gravity, she will surely be hailed as a miracle on Earth; Baby announcements are in the mail.

Their hope of rescue hinges on a leap-of-faith; the faith that NASA knows that the reluctant Mars colonists have finite survival resources and that their “ride home” should be arriving any day now.

For the crew and launchers of the New Mayflower, they have been assuming that Sampson & Celeste had indeed survived the loss of the orbiting station and are waiting anxiously for its appearance.

These nagging, creeping doubts, that growing suspicion that the NASA did not or could not pull the rescue trigger, has hastened Sampson’s attempts to master the propulsion mystery of the idled NEWFOUNDLANDER. It is a singular quest, considering that if they must, they could live out their natural lives, perhaps exceeding the current 100 year life span. After all, carbon analysis of their lone Newfoundlian cabin/cohabitant indicates he died at the ripe old age of 700 and perhaps older than that. And this was achieved with a body that is eventually victimized by an undetermined alien fate. So immortality may or may not be part of their alien equation.


THE RETURN TRIP

Mortality

Episode 160


page 196

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 158

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 158

CHAPTER EIGHT

 Going Somewhere? {very far?}

…The most noted casualty from the space-spat-dust-up is President Sanchez, who had to stand up in the moment, to straddle the fence…

The Mercury Seven in 1960. Back row: Shepard, Grissom, Cooper; front row: Schirra, Slayton, Glenn, Carpenter. This was the only time they would appear together in pressure suits. (wikipedia)

The intervening months in the lives of Roy Crippen and his new bride, now a hyphenated-lady {Francine Bouchette-Crippen}, are quite tranquil in comparison to the preceding 80 eventful days. That house-ienda that Braden King had started has taken full form. With the national space program on the back-burner for a few more weeks, much of Roy and Francine’s time is spent interior decorating and bonding with Deke and Gus, the McKinney kids whose given names intentionally, not coincidentally mirror those of the pioneering Mercury 7 astronauts {D. Slayton – G. Grissom}, in NASA’s infant forays outside the ionosphere.

 Those young men, with their adolescent world in flux, have taken to the new arrangement with determined zeal. They have no shortage of foster parents who love them like their own and the youthful refreshing presence they offer may be the very reason that Braden has recovered from his health issues fully intact. His debilitating concern about Sampson & Celeste has waned, primarily in the final days before the New Mayflower scoops them up and brings them home.

As for the world in general, the moral fallout from the United States’ assault on the enemies of  the World Space Consortium has been swept away like the dust in a stiff wind. The indisputable evidence about Sang-Ashi’s intended mission removes any need for justification, as civilian casualties in the affected areas were negligible and both of those countries do not publicly acknowledge setbacks that aren’t caused by earthquake, monsoon or outside propaganda.

The most noted casualty from the space-spat-dust-up is the man who had to stand up in the moment, to straddle the fence that divides right and wrong, but only history may judge him correctly in the future.

President Pete, as he likes being called, has been skewered by the court of public opinion, by those who hide behind their AnonyMssg, Twitter, Facebook, and blogging bravado. The ironic thing is, that for the first time in his 6+ years in office, he made the tough call and is paying a political price for that.

Even though he was hailed privately for employing brilliant strategy while accomplishing a perfect measure of revenge without reprisal, critics of such bravado hound for using the end of his second term to bolster his already weak legacy; damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 158


page 193

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